10 Mardi Gras Foods and The Skills You Need To Make Them


It’s Mardi Gras time and that means parades, beads, boobs and good food in New Orleans. But, you don’t have to go to the city below the river to enjoy the Fat Tuesday celebration.

mardigras

Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday, it’s the end of the season of celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday and fasting for Lent. That’s why it’s FAT Tuesday, because it’s the day to fatten up before going without.

While revelry and drink are most closely associated with Mardi Gras, it’s the food that puts the Fat in Fat Tuesday. There are many foods closely associated with this holiday, and you can make them all, if you know the methods behind their creation.

etouffee1) Etouffee’ (Et-two-fay) – This Creole dish of sausage, chicken and/or shellfish is made rich and muddy by a very dark roux. Any Creole worth their Tabasco will tell you the key to great etouffee’ is a brick colored roux. Roux is the combination of fat and starch, but HOW you cook the roux is most important.

muffuletta2) Muffulettas (muffle-letta) – A New Orleans sandwich of ham and cheese with an olive spread. Anyone can make a ham and cheese sandwich, right? Yes, but the olive tapenade is what makes the difference. Can you create a flavorful spread from chopped olives, pickles, capers, onions and peppers? That’s the method here.

poboy3) Shrimp Po-Boy - The Cajun submarine sandwich of fried fish or shellfish is the bomb of Bourbon Street. Beside the local bread, the key to great fried shrimp is how they are cleaned and cut BEFORE frying. Shrimp are thicker at the head and thinner at the tail. This leads to inconsistent cooking. Learning how to butterfly shrimp is the key skill in this sandwich.

creolerice4) Creole Rice - There are many ways to make rice. Most people use the “boil” method. That’s where you put rice in boiling water and walk away. However, NOTHING has less flavor than water. Louisiana rice is made with flavorful liquids and choosing the right liquid with the right method is the key to making great fluffy rice.

shrimpgrits5) Shrimp and Grits – This dish might be more Carolinian than Cajun, but the combination of creamy grits with spicy shrimp and mushrooms makes it one of my favorite meals. But, if you’ve never made a grit you can wind up with a mushy paste. Knowing the difference between boil, simmer, and poaching methods will yield better results.

remoulade6) Remoulade (rem-ew-lahd) – Some people call it Cajun tartar sauce, but it takes much more skill than tartar to make a good remoulade. This dipping sauce and sandwich spread takes advantage of the process of emulsification, the mixing of two unmixable items. If you can’t emulsify, your dressing will break.

jambalaya7) Jambalaya (jam-ba-lie-a) – A Louisiana staple, jambalaya is a low-country stew of rice, sausage, pork, shellfish, and whatever else you find crawling through the back yard. Generally a stewing method is used, but with delicate fish it’s trickier than you might think. For a great jambalaya, you can’t use the crock pot!

gumbo8) Gumbo – One of the best skills a cook can have is to be able to make a flavorful soup. Gumbo is not shy in its flavors, it’s aggressive and bold. The ability to extract rich flavors INTO a liquid is key in soup making.

kingcake9) King Cake – Similar to a coffee cake, the Mardi Gras King Cake usually has a surprise hidden inside. Originally, it was a bean. The person that found the bean in their slice was “king of the feast”. Today, it’s normally a plastic or porcelain baby. King cake is leavened with yeast. Working with the live organism is a challenge for most home bakers, and knowing how to treat your yeast well will make you king of cakes.

beignet10) Beignets (ben-yays) – A leavened doughnut particular to Louisiana, the beignet is my favorite of all Mardi Gras foods. This is not a round doughnut with a hole, it takes many shapes. Often they are round balls, sometimes squares but always delicious. However, the mixing method for beignets has you cook the dough twice. It can be difficult if you don’t know the secrets.

I like to reflect upon food holidays with a quick inventory of the cooking methods I have in my repertoire and how they match up to the things I may have to make. I DON’T go looking for recipes, I look for ideas that can compliment the skills and abilities I already have.

How many of the needed skills above do you possess? Can you make a brick roux? Can you create cold salads and dressings? Do you know the three ways to make rice that you’ll need? Can you feed yeast without killing it? Great! Then you can have a great Mardi Gras feast.

If you don’t know the methods I’m mentioning, leave a comment below and I may be able to help.

Did I leave one of your favorites off the list? What would you add? I’d love to know with your comment below:

About Chef Todd

Chef Todd Mohr is a Certified Culinary Educator who has empowered home cooks all over the world with the reliable, dependable, repeatable METHODS behind cooking that build confidence, generate creativity and enable anyone to cook with the ingredients THEY desire.

6 Comments

Leave a Comment

  • Chef Todd Mohr
    Chef Todd Mohr
    2:06 PM - 19 February, 2015

    Thanks, Carlos for the kind words.
    This topic is a very narrow one and making a DVD takes a tremendous amount of time and money.
    While I appreciate that you want more on this subject, I won't be getting to this any time soon.
    Thanks for the suggestion, though.

  • Carlos Ramos
    Carlos Ramos
    4:40 AM - 19 February, 2015

    Please make a dvd on this kind of food! You are the best Chef!

  • Chef Todd
    Chef Todd
    4:00 PM - 5 March, 2014

    Hey Joe!
    Thank you for your kind words, you added a smile to my day.
    None of the ingredients in a basic etouffee should be hard to find. Your local grocery store should have andouille sausage, shrimp, peppers, etc.
    The combination of ingredients is up to you.
    However, to find really good and fresh ingredients, I'd visit your local fish shop for crayfish (crawfish). This will make a really interesting etouffee, but be careful those little lobster-looking critters cook very quickly. Add them at the end, especially if they're already steamed.

    And remember, the key is a deep, dark roux. However, a dark roux has 1/2 the thickening power of a blonde roux, so you'll need twice as much. I'd recommend making a bunch of brick roux, cool it in a ramekin or metal pan, and then add to simmering liquid. That way you can watch the thickening going on without adding too much.

    let the good times roll!

  • Joe Sudano
    Joe Sudano
    3:48 PM - 5 March, 2014

    Chef Todd, I love the way you keep your students constantly challenged. These Mardi Gras dishes look and sound delicious and fun to make. I would attempt some of them especially the Etoufee'. Can you steer me in how I can get the ingredients? You already taught me the the method Remember, your students love you and your dedication in teaching us how to cook like a chef.

    Thank You,
    Joe Sudano

  • Chef Todd
    Chef Todd
    11:59 AM - 4 March, 2014

    Thanks, Todd. How about something classic (and timely)...Chicken Kiev!
    http://www.webcookingclasses.com/chicken-kiev-recipe/cookery-course/

  • Todd
    Todd
    4:24 AM - 4 March, 2014

    You know what would be AWESOME ? If you made a video showing how just how to make these classic dishes. Again, that would be AWESOME !!!!!

Leave a Comment